Austin is a mecca for music festivals, but Euphoria Festival stands out from ACL, SXSW, and the countless others because of its curated atmosphere, which immerses you in a different universe. Walking into the venue – Carson Creek Ranch – psychedelic lighting mixed with pulsating rhythms, and the festival grounds opened up to expose the indigenous EDM inhabitants of Euphoria. While this year’s festival was stacked with a variety of talented headliner artists, the real attraction was the people – an eclectic mix of post-apocalyptic ravers, electro-hippies, and creative mystics.
Friday’s festival lineup played like a perfectly coursed meal with local acts Sip Sip and Magna Carda wetting locals’ palettes and impressing visitors. Vaporwave aficionado Flamingosis mellowed the audience and Canadian duo Tennyson deftly orchestrated electro-bliss. The iconic electro-jam band the Disco Biscuits brought out the wookies and heads as the sun began to set on the picturesque ranch. The highlight of the night came with FKJ or ‘French Kiwi Juice’ playing on the Dragonfly stage as he intertwined jazz elements, hip-hop beats, and ambient electro for a mind-blowing set that included live guitar, saxophone, and keyboard playing. Pretty Lights would close the night out, and while predictable, the headliner still blew away the anticipatory crowd.
Saturday brought renewed energy and a fresh wave of festival-goers who practiced acro-yoga, performed circus talents, and were equal-parts flower power and 5th dimension alien. Lemurian and Capyac eased the crowd into a funky vibe, which led into Poolside’s DJ performance that created soma-like emissions on a beautiful, crisp, Saturday afternoon. Dutch DJ Bakermat, whom was previously off my radar, gave one of the most impressive performances of the weekend, mixing 70’s funk samples with live saxophone solos that melted faces. Bob Moses performed a greatest hits setlist that was a mellifluous oasis amongst the EDM banging elsewhere. While Saturday began great, headliners Post Malone, Young Thug, and The Floozies, while entertaining, were a drop-off from the previous acts on the day.
Sunday began to show some wear on the audience. Those who had camped on the festival grounds were slightly worn and dirty, while others who suffered lack of sleep did not arrive until late in the day. Despite the marathon of music taking its toll, Chromeo reinvigorated the dancing spirit with a set that reached back through their entire catalogue. The momentum continued into the highly anticipated Moby performance, which although high-energy, focused on EDM elements rather than his classic pop hits. Grum followed suit in similar fashion, eschewing his 80’s confectioned dance hits for pure EDM set. Wiz Khalifa was surprisingly high energy despite the massive amounts of cannabis plumes that wafted over the crowd.
Driving away from the Euphoria wonderland Sunday night to end up back in my office on Monday morning made the surrealism of the weekend set in. While highlights like FKJ, Poolside, Bakermat, Bob Moses, and Chromeo replayed through my mind, it was the ethereal landscape and vagabond crowd that left the deepest imprint. Euphoria may be known as a music festival but it has created such a unique safe place for creatives that it could easily exist without the extravagant headliners. The festival serves as a pressure release valve from the monotony of real life and allows an escape from the status quo that we all could use – even if you’re not a circus-trained torch juggler in body paint.